Emily Bailey's Blog

In this session we explored computing and it’s place in the Revised National Curriculum. In Key Stage 1 pupils are expected to:

  • understand what algorithms are; how they are implemented as programs on digital devices; and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions
  • create and debug simple programs
  •  use logical reasoning to predict the behaviour of simple programs
  • use technology purposefully to create, organise, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content
  • recognise common uses of information technology beyond school
  •  use technology safely and respectfully, keeping personal information private; identify where to go for help and support when they have concerns about content or contact on the internet or other online technologies (DfE, 2013)

Click here to access the programme of study for Key Stage 1 and 2

I will admit, although I feel quite confident with ICT the words algorithms, progamming and debug frightened me…I thought perhaps computing wouldn’t be my thing. Those words, to me, made it sound complicated and boring. However as Helen began to explain all the different resources and activities involving programming I realised that it can be easy and it can be enjoyable.

Before I delve into the different programs I’m going to put some definitions for my tricky computing words.

Bird et al. (2014) note that ‘The terms algorithm and computational thinking are not new and don’t have to represent difficult concepts.’ They consider how technical terminology is understandable to children when used in the correct context, for example children are able to successfully understand and use phonic terminology that their parents do not necessarily understand. This can be suggested as evidence towards children being effectively able to use these words. As teachers we have to understand them in order to explain them…

Algorithm; a process or set of rules that are followed in problem solving operations. I found the video below helped me understand this, this is a good example of computing unplugged- essentially you have to give a set of instructions for the computer to follow.

Programming; the process of writing computer programs. Now even with the definition it still seems scary but in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 this will just be very simple computer programming that you will see below. The apps and step by step programmes make it easier!

Debug; this just means finding any errors in the computer programming and removing or fixing them. Again, this will become clearer and easier within the programmes and apps available- I especially found Purple Mash good for this.

Now for the helpful resources…

Purple mash–> Clicking the 2Code section on Purple Mash there are a wide variety of activities that can be used. At the top there are tutorials that either you as the teacher can use before a lesson or that the children can use (could be more appropriate for older children) then below the activities rank in ease of use. Generally you would probably choose several of these over a number of sessions to build children’s understanding and knowledge of computing. I decided to go on the princess and the frog programme and hope to pick it up quickly. Luckily it was step by step which I liked, it talks you through it and you end up with a long code that you’ve created which I thought would be easier for young children as it’s quite simplified. It then goes on to children debugging the programme- a monkey has done part of the story wrong and the children have to fix the bug. By this point, after the steps the children should feel confident enough to do this. Here’s my computing skills below… (Click the princess to get started!)


The problem with using purple mash for computing is that the children have to be able to read to follow the instructions etc. and I think it’s quite limited in terms of linking it throughout the curriculum. Although, saying that you can easily link this with Literacy for story telling, the children would probably be familiar with this story.

Scratch–>I tried to get onto the app called Scratch Junior on the iPad but, as sometimes is an issue with using technology, it wasn’t working so I just went onto the Scratch website. Unfortunately this one isn’t as appropriate for younger children but it still gave me a feel for the kinds of things you can do on Scratch. It has a handy tutorial that teachers can use to get to grips with it. This was handy for me because I found it very confusing. There are some handy instruction cards that you can print and laminate for children to follow however. Children would need a deep understanding of coding to use this version of Scratch successfully or a step by step instruction, Scratch Junior would be more appropriate for the Early Years because there’s not a lot of text the children have to read. If you were to use this with younger children it would require a lot of scaffolding and you would perhaps give them a ready made programme that they have to add to or change, it would be easier for them to change little bits rather than starting from scratch. Scratch is a very open ended programme, it can be used across the curriculum easily as you have a lot of freedom as to what to do with the characters, what backgrounds to have etc. You’re also able to go onto examples and edit it to your liking so as a teacher you wouldn’t necessarily have to create one for the children to change if you could find an appropriate one.

This is one I particularly like, it can help children’s gross motor skills as they try to keep the pizza dough in the air! Click the picture to visit the game.

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Bee-bots (ipad app)–> This is good for algorithms, I found that if you try to do the whole maze in one set of directions it doesn’t work out well! You have to make sure you’re going in the right direction- it can be quite hard to tell when the beebot is changing directions. Also, something I found difficult and I think children would too, is that the up arrow means forward so when you want the beebot to move forwards you press up even if it’s facing downward. When completing the maze in separate sets of directions you must remember to clear it, ensure children know this and keep reminding them. The beebot app can support children’s positional language skills as they use words like forward, backwards, left, right etc. This is good for transition from using a physical bee-bot.

Physical Bee-bot–> Bee-bots can be used across many different subject areas; phonics, mathematics and expressive arts and design. You can attach a pen to the Beebot and try to draw a specific picture or to write letters, in phonics you can have the beebot on a letter mat going over each of the sounds, you could put it on a number line…the possibilities are endless! I particularly like this video of dancing Bee-bots! The use of physical bee-bots can be a good transition from unplugged using people.

On my 2b placement I have seen Bee-bots being used in a Nursery, they were just set out as part of the continuous provision and we provided ramps for the children to go up and down but I wish I had thought more about how else I could have used them because I observed lots of children becoming involved with the Bee-bots.

I’ve saved a really good guide to using bee-bots in the classroom, it gives you lots of great ideas for using bee-bots in the Early Years that are easily linked to different curriculum areas. Click the beebot to visit the guide.

Bee-Bot User Guide

Bee-bot User Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cato’s Hike–> This is a fairly similar app to Bee-bots, it provides an alternative to it. However with this app I found I was only able to do the tutorial as you had to purchase the different levels. I also felt that it might be a bit confusing because there’s more demands, the bee-bots app just have the simple arrows but the thumbnails were quite different. I would probably only introduce this after the children had a firm understanding of using apps like this, something for continuous provision to reinforce their understanding and confidence in computing. This wouldn’t be my first choice because I believe there are other apps that are more user friendly. In the picture below you can see the different icons used in the app.

catos_hike_ss2

 

 

 

 

For the final part of the session we each looked at a different activity on Barefoot computing, the site contains ideas for activities in the classroom and includes assessment ideas and downloadable resources…all for free!

Visit the site yourself

Visit the site yourself

We looked at Bee-Bots Tinkering. You need a log in but registering is free, quick and easy. The activities are very detailed, easily transferred into a comprehensive lesson plan- they give you the recommended age range, time needed, curriculum links, an introduction to what it involves, objectives accessible to children, resources needed, what to consider before starting, whole class introduction, the main task, plenary, points to consider for differentiation, assessment opportunities, teaching notes, notes about the concepts and approaches (in this case tinkering and programming), digital devices, taking it further- other programmes that can be used for future lessons, further reading and related activities within the site (enough to write an extensive lesson plan!) Even if you’re not completely confident with computing the information provided can allow you to go into the lesson feeling confident and secure about teaching it. It even has prompts to direct you as to what sort of questions to ask.

The Bee-Bots Tinkering lesson involved the skills tinkering and programming. The main task of this was to allow the children to tinker with the Bee-bots, the teacher provides the children with word cards that can be downloaded and printed from the site and it suggests a number of open-ended questions.It’s also suggested you discuss as a class what the children already know about the bee-bots. We thought this was quite a good activity because children generally want to tinker away anyway, they will naturally do it so you don’t really have to prompt them to do it too much at this young age.

Teacher’s Standards–> this can support TS3 having a secure knowledge of the relevant subjects and curriculum areas, maintaining pupils’ interest in the subject and address misunderstandings. It can also support TS4 promoting the lovely of learning and pupils’ intellectual curiosity.

References

Bird, J., Caldwell, H. and Mayne, P. (2014) Lessons in Teaching Primary Computing. Sage, London.



2 Comments so far

  1.    Katie on October 26, 2014 5:59 pm      Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this post about computing, I think some of the resources you have reviewed would be very productive to use in the classroom, particular bee-bots and the bee-bot apps.

  2.    Emily on October 31, 2014 10:58 am      Reply

    I agree, I really like bee-bots and we now have some great ideas to use in practice.

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